Window

*This short piece started out as an exercise in free indirect speech. 
It was also a personal writing challenge, as I wanted to see how many times 
I could transfer the perspective from Gerard to Grace and back again. 
This story featured in Issue 37 of From Glasgow to Saturn.

 

Gerard had been back for at least five minutes. He hadn’t meant to be so quiet, but he must have been because Grace hadn’t noticed him from where she stood by the kitchen window, looking out. He couldn’t imagine what she could see from there. It was just the garden she’d insisted on once and had since let go to ragwort and wild mint. Past the garden were the fields: the carrots, which were barely sprouting, then the cabbages, which were good for business when the rabbits hadn’t eaten away a few hundred pounds-worth. But surely gazing at green cabbage wasn’t much better than looking at grass? It might’ve been the yew way over on the hill that she was looking at—it was a grand tree—but it was probably too far away to admire from that window.

There wasn’t anything special about this window; Grace could barely see where they were buried from here. If she wanted, she could see them clearly from the bedroom, but when she looked out at them from upstairs she got ideas she didn’t like. She could just about see through the hedges, though. There they were, planted in the ground, yielding nothing but weeds. Six months had seen the mounds of soil sink flat. That word, mound, spun around in her head. The ragwort had claimed the whole garden months ago, but the weeds where the mounds had been were different, darker, and Grace had a horrible idea that it was because they were more nourished than the others.

‘Grace, will you come and sit with me?’ Gerard said from behind her. She started and was too surprised to respond. He was meant to be in town; it had just been her and the girls.

‘I thought you wouldn’t be back until dinner,’ she said, her voice so quiet that Gerard had to strain to make it out. ‘You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.’

Gerard wished he hadn’t strained to hear her; her distant tone still had some bite in it and he clenched his hands into fists. But there was no use in getting angry, so he let it slip away as easy as it had come. He sighed. Then he whistled to try and make her smile (she’d always liked his terrible whistling). But she didn’t react at all.

‘I didn’t sneak up,’ he said, when the silence got too much. ‘You just didn’t notice me.’

Grace didn’t respond. She didn’t move her gaze from outside. She knew he was right, but she didn’t want to tell him that. He didn’t gloat when he was right, but there was always victory in his eyes and he was always so proud that he wasn’t a bad winner.

‘What are you looking at?’ he asked her, his voice too loud and hard—the voice of a farmer who’s spent years in the wind and the rain. She didn’t want to answer. He had no right to see them there, in the places he’d dug for them with his own hands as though it was as easy as a spot of gardening or a morning’s work in the fields. It had been winter when he’d buried them, but he had sweated. And then he’d come in hungry from his labour, the loamy soil stuck to his boots. He’d sat down to make himself a sandwich with the butter and ham and bread set out and he actually looked content. He was always happiest when he was busy.

Gerard walked right up to her without her even noticing. He could smell her soft hair and he couldn’t see anything but his memories. It’s strange how much memory a smell can uncover—like wind blowing up seeds that don’t take.

‘You don’t see, do you?’ she said. And for a second she was right, and he couldn’t admit it to her. But then he saw.

‘Oh,’ he said. ‘I see.’

‘You don’t see,’ she said, turning to look him in the face as he lied to her. He wasn’t crying. Never did. But there was something alive in his dull blue eyes and she knew he could see them.

‘Our girls,’ he said, ‘I didn’t realise you could see them from here. I thought it was just from upstairs.’

‘You don’t cook,’ she said. ‘You don’t do the dishes anymore. You’re never in here long enough to even look out the window.’    

She turned from him. Back to the garden. They stood there, together, and stared at the place where there had once been mounds, where the grass and weeds were darker.

 

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